"Icarus" - White Hinterland
Arriving on the indie scene in 2006 as a precocious, Nellie McKay-ish singer/songwriter/pianist, Casey Dienel has since taken on a band name (White Hinterland), a band mate (Shawn Creeden), and a new musical setting. I for one am happy to hear it, as I believe the world can use propulsive, mysterious-sounding, beat-driven but melodic electro-pop a bit more than it needs a second Nellie McKay.
Underscored by swooshing wind-like white noise, "Icarus" has a slinky sound that gains traction via the interplay between Dienel's airy, plaintive singing style and the clattering rhythm sticks that are placed front and center in the mix. They are unavoidable there, and are thus transformed from percussive accent into full-fledged musical statement, particularly when Dienel sings the wordless refrain of "oo-oo-oohs" that functions as a chorus-like link between verses. Check out how the clacking rhythm stutters and syncopates along the way, just enough to keep your head in the game, to keep the song from fading into over-smoothness. Time passes much more quickly because the ears aren't being lulled to sleep; every time I get to the end--at 3:47, the song is not notably short--I feel a little startled.
Born and raised in the Boston area, Dienel studied classical voice and composition at the New England Conservatory of Music before leaving to have a go as a pop musician. She is now located in Portland, Oregon. "Icarus" will be found on White Hinterland's second album, Kairos, which is due out in March on Dead Oceans. MP3 via Dead Oceans.